by Eileen Spencer, Research Associate, Age Concern North East Wales
Lunch Clubs are community based social ventures providing opportunities to enjoy a hot meal, companionship and activity. As ‘micro-organisations’, they form part of the planned community economy which is voluntary and non-trading, fulfilling the goals of self help, mutual and social purpose (Phillips 2006). In ageing populations, meals provided in community settings can make an important contribution to the health, nutritional intake and social well-being of older people (Burke et al 2011).Yet at a time when voluntary groups are being encouraged to scale-up activities, we know little about the operational and financial sustainability of lunch clubs as a community resource.
With funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, and facilitation from the WCVA, Age Concern North East Wales are hosting research involving lunch clubs in Wrexham, Flintshire and West Cheshire. The aim is to understand the factors that facilitate or threaten operational and financial sustainability and how lunch clubs respond to incidents which threaten their survival. Having mapped lunch clubs across the three regions, a postal survey has been conducted with lunch club co-ordinators to develop a typology of different service models according to their setting, delivery partnerships, scope of activities and funding mechanisms. Interviews have been conducted with ten lunch club co-ordinators representing ten different lunch club models, to explore the factors affecting sustainability. When the project ends in March 2013, the findings will be disseminated across the voluntary, public and policy sectors to inform the future development of sustainable lunch clubs which can become an embedded community resource.
Burke D; Jennings M; McClinchy J; Masey H; Westwood D; Dickinson A. (2011) Community luncheon clubs benefit the nutritional and social well being of free living older people. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 24, 277-310
Phillips M. (2006) Growing pains : the sustainability of social enterprises, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 7(4), 221-230
The researcher Dr Eileen Spencer is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation (Main Fund) and is conducting this project in association with Age Concern North East Wales and the WCVA. She has a professional background in health care and her academic interests include health and social care, public health, public policy and partnership working. She also has experience of commissioning and planning services for older people for a Welsh Local Authority, and of working in partnership with the voluntary sector to develop sustainable lunch club provision.
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